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Asia stocks rise as Wall Street flirts with highs

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

In this Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, photo, Trader Michael Urkonis, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Wall Street appeared headed for a day of trade without drama Monday Jan. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets posted modest gains Tuesday as the feel-good factor lingered from near-record highs on Wall Street and signs of an upswing in U.S. manufacturing.

Analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said that benchmarks in South Korea and Taiwan are recuperating after recent sell-offs amid worries that the depreciating yen will hurt economic growth in those countries. South Korea release its January trade figures later this week and Taiwan reports fourth quarter economic growth.

"While exporters in Korea and Taiwan will face competition from Japanese counterparts, importers could benefit from a cheap the yen due to the high dependence on industrial supplies from Japan," DBS said in an email commentary.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 1,956.25. Technology giant Samsung Electronics jumped 3.2 percent, following four consecutive days of losses. Taiwan's TAIEX advanced 0.9 percent. Acer Inc., one of the world's leading PC manufacturers, surged 6.9 percent.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent to 10,924.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped less than 0.1 percent to 23,662.12. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.1 percent to 4,887.40.

"Investors are a bit more confident and responding to the fact that interest rates are very low and being kept that way by central banks," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. "They are looking to maintain the value of their portfolios by getting themselves into an asset class more likely to be earnings a reasonable return."

Japanese banks surged on expectations they will beat earnings estimates for fiscal 2012, the Nikkei newspaper reported. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group advanced 3.6 percent. Mizuho Financial Group gained 2.4 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rose 3.8 percent.

There will plenty of fresh data from the U.S. to drive trading this week, including retail sales, economic growth and the government's report on hiring and employment in January, which is due out Friday. More than one-fifth of the companies in the S&P 500 will report fourth-quarter earnings this week. Moreover, the Federal Reserve's policy committee begins a two-day meeting that concludes Wednesday.

Strong corporate earnings helped push the S&P 500 above 1,500 Friday, the first time in more than five years. The breakthrough happened on an eighth straight daily gain for stocks, itself a remarkable performance. That is the longest winning streak since November 2004.

But stocks cooled off by Monday. A report showed that orders for long-lasting goods rose in December by 4.6 percent, which was encouraging news about manufacturing, but stocks fell later after a disappointing report on the pace of home sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down or 0.1 percent at 13,881.93. The S&P 500 fell 0.2 percent to 1,500.18. The Nasdaq composite index added 0.2 percent to 3,154.30.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 26 cents to $96.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 56 cents to finish at $96.44 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell slightly to $1.3454 from $1.3456 from late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 90.77 yen from 90.79 yen.


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